Born to every privilege that aristocracy and wealth could provide in turn of the century England, the author borrows Shaw's phrase to describe himself as ""a downstart."" He gained a title without its estates; was a writer and became a ghost writer; fought as a British major in WWI and as an American sargent in WWII; he went from Broadway to Hollywood to a deserted beach. His exercise in autobiography was undertaken in order that he might discover himself. This means that he has concentrated on things that are of personal significance to him and the result is that he mentions the Broadway, Hollywood and Spanish Civil War years without any of the casual anecdote that might have made this a picture of his times as well as himself -- and would have made it a more interesting book. Like most autobiographers, he is best at describing his earliest years and he certainly has the material. Divorce would have violated the social code and his parents feuded through his childhood with crazy energy. His mother used him as a weapon against his father, removed him from school, put him in curlers and a medieval page outfit and used him as her London escort. Later she insisted on his marriage to her friend, some 20 years his senior, to squelch rumors of her lesbianism circulated by her ex-husband. His second marriage was tragically brief and very happy, but here again, the sense of stories left untold is in contrast with whole passages that carry a total candor. The competent prose and the earnest effort at self-probing, all combined with the magic name will win this an audience which will find a charming, weathered idealist here, who doesn't always follow through.